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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I am looking at starting a few turkeys this year. We've had the broad breasted bronze variety before, and I may just end up getting those again, but I am intrigued with heritage breed turkeys. I know there are pros and cons to raiding heritage turkeys. I am looking specifically at heritage bronzes...mostly because of the larger size and the fact that I just love the color, even though I know some people don't like the colored pin feathers at butchering time. :) I'm open to other breeds, though. I have a few specific questions for anyone who has experience.

Are the hens good mothers? Are they generally successful at hatching poults on their own, or should I plan to have alternate means for hatching eggs?

Are the birds flighty? I'd be spending time with them as poults to socialize them, but I know some birds are flighty in spite of that.

Do the toms tend to be aggressive?

If they're free ranging, do they target the garden? I know chickens do, but our guinea fowl don't bother my garden too much, so they free range all the time.

How do you deal with predators and sitting turkey hens? Our guinea fowl rarely ever succeed at hatching a nest, because predators either kill the sitting guinea hen, or steal the eggs. I know turkeys are bigger, but I'm wondering if I would have the same issue. Can you move a sitting turkey hen into a secure pen without upsetting her too much? I've thought about trying that with the guineas, but I'm pretty sure I'd give the poor things heart failure.

Thanks in advance!
 

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Oh turkeys! My favorite topic :)
So first fun fact, all heritage turkeys are the same breed, there is just different varieties. You will get some different qualities of each variety, like the bronze being slightly larger because people have focused more on breeding that variety to be larger.
Anyways to the important things lol
The hens, really just keep in mind these are not the sharpest fowl at the farm. They will go broody and hatch eggs And they really do try to be good moms and for the most part they are, they are just kinda air heads, some more then others. If your wanting to hatch a lot of eggs out I would get a incubator. You can also put the eggs under a broody hen but usually when I have something I want hatched there isn’t a broody hen around, so I bought incubators.
They are not as sweet as the broad breasted but they really are not bad. Mine all come to me and follow me around, fairly easy to catch if I need to catch them but there is only 1 out of 35 that I can snuggle with and she has been my BFF since day 1. I think they are kinda perfect, not too much of a pet but easy to get your hands on them if you need to.
Toms, ehhh it depends on the Tom really. All of mine so far are nice. I really just ignore them and don’t try to make pets out of them. We had one that was a total pet before we knew he was a he and he never got “mean” but we saw it coming so we sold him and kept another Tom instead. I would say try not to make a Tom a huge pet and I think that helps a lot.
If they want your garden they will target your garden! Every morning when I let them out the first thing they do is fly out and go to the pigeons cage first to see if there is any food to take and then off to the chickens. For birds that can’t remember how to fly over a fence to get back home they sure remember how to get to places that they can be a pain in the butt! Depending on how high your fence is though you can clip one of their wings and keep them from flying so high.
Turkeys only lay eggs part of the year, you could try to keep them a little more contained when that season hits to make sure they only lay in a safe spot where predators won’t be a issue. For the most part they should want to lay in their cage, if they are part time free range but of course they are like chickens and some have to go lay them in odd places. I think you MIGHT be able to move them. They are not like the guineas and only slightly domestic. That one I really don’t have any advise, we don’t have a huge predator issue here with the way the goats pen is laid out and my dogs.
And pros and cons. Really we only got the heritage because we love turkeys and ours are mostly pets. They last longer, can breed, are supposed to be smarter (only slightly) and there was different colors. The con compared to the broad breasted is they are not as sweet or as large (which we didn’t care) they take a bit longer to mature and get to their maximum weight.
With which heritage ones to get, go with whatever you think are pretty. We have blue slate, bourbon red, royal palm, black slate and black Spanish and they are all pretty much the same. I like the blue slate best just because I think they are pretty but we just let them all go together and hoping for a mix of all kinds of odd colors.
 

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I have had both broad breasted varieties and numerous varieties of heritage turkeys. We currently have a Royal Palm tom (Homer) and his two Bourbon Red girlfriends.

I will say that when we had our broad breasted turkeys, we loved them. While they weren't as clever nor as good at foraging as heritage breeds, they were very sweet animals and we actually were very sad when it was time to eat them. They were so friendly that I would have considered keeping my favorite one around - only I *couldn't.* At only 6 months of age she was already struggling to walk. It was apparent that her heart would soon give out under her size. It seemed to me that I chose to raise meat on my place so I could know that my animals enjoy really happy lives except for one bad day, and I felt sad raising industrial turkeys who were obviously struggling to enjoy themselves, so we made the switch to heritage breeds.

The difference in behavior is night and day. The heritage turkeys are not as sweet or as friendly as the broad-breasted varieties were, but they are excellent alarms and watch animals. They do trust us and come running to us for treats, but they don't love to be petted. They are excellent foragers and go back into the forest eating what I am sure is pounds and pounds of bugs. I've been able to consider getting rid of our guinea hens because the turkeys have reduced the tick problem so much. They're active and clever and quite a substantial size, though of course they took longer to get there than the industrial varieties.

The Royal Palm is great at roosting in the house. When the weather's nice, the Bourbons are not as good at it. Classically they will attempt to roost on the roof of the house and someone needs to poke them off with a long poking device.

Unlike broad breasted varieties, most any heritage breed is going to be able to mate and hatch her own eggs as long as you can provide her with a secure place to do so. Because they don't use nest boxes, my plan is to wait for the turkeys to choose a place to sit and then to actually put a small house around them for nighttime safety. You could also try moving them, they are not nearly as flighty as the guineas. They also don't pick on the chickens as much as the guineas do.

I would estimate they target the garden about as much as the chickens. It's all about making sure they don't learn that there's good stuff to eat in there, and failing that, a good barrier to keep them out. I've been using deer netting and that works pretty well.

I will say that Homer can fly and in fact he has huge wings like an egret. This was a surprise after broad breasted varieties. He is so huge now that I can't lift him to clip his flight feathers, but I was able to do one while he was asleep and now it's a little bit harder for him to fly into one of the trees in our swamp if he takes a fancy.

Generally I would recommend heritage breeds if you're like me and care about your animals' quality of life. While they are not as easy to grow out as industrial varieties, and the management is a little different, I have found that they are very well suited to a farmstead and I enjoy having them around. I'm also grateful that they're able to have their own babies instead of having to start fresh with poults in the mail every year. Poults are a pain in the booty.
 

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Good lord i laughed! Thinkin yup yup yup.... and that second sentence hahahahaha i have had people be irate that turkey varieties are absolutely not the same breed.

Clippin a wing.. turkeys can jump high.... over a four ft fence high. They easily can get on the roof of the barns with a wing clipped here. Oye!

Our hens that have went broody have all been great mamas.... it is the daily suicide wishes of the poults that has been our problem. I mean come on! How. Just how does a poult drown in a two inch deep water pan!?!?! I get the trough diving accidents but a shallow pan really kids?!?! Lol!

We have moved broody hens many times and they stay sitting. The trick is to wait at least a week to do it though. Then you are golden!
 

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We had two bb hens that were at least a year old when we got them. At two and half one hen died in her sleep and fell out of a low tree she loved. The other lived to 3.5. She got herself rolled over and could not right herself several times in a week in the summer.we finally processed her because we were afraid she would do it when no one was home and die like that. Ours have three acres to toot around in for bugs and grass. That goober also tried being broody. Oye. Ours only have food down evening feeds to mornin feeds up the hill where the turks live. So you can keep bb a good long while and they can have a good quality of life.

A heritage tom over a bb hen makes for amazing poults too! They grew fast but were a proportionate bird like the heritages.

None of our heritages have ever been happy roostin in a barn. No matter what variety they have been. It is on the gates, on the roofs or in the trees.
 

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Lol I wasn’t judging the different breed thing but yes some people come off the wall about it! It’s like come on who really cares, but at the same time very interesting! The hatcheries though totally make them out to be different breeds though so I will never be the Turkey police on that :p
 

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Lol I wasn't judging the different breed thing but yes some people come off the wall about it! It's like come on who really cares, but at the same time very interesting! The hatcheries though totally make them out to be different breeds though so I will never be the Turkey police on that :p
Lol ikr!
 

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Lol I wasn’t judging the different breed thing but yes some people come off the wall about it! It’s like come on who really cares, but at the same time very interesting! The hatcheries though totally make them out to be different breeds though so I will never be the Turkey police on that :p
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 · (Edited)
Thanks, everyone, for the input! This is all very helpful! And you guys are making me chuckle, too.
I have had very little experience with turkeys. My family kept them when I was younger, but my most memorable turkey experience was being sat upon by an overly friendly broad-breasted tom, and not being able to get up. It was terrifying at the time, but it makes me laugh now.
That is interesting info about the breeds (or lack thereof). It makes sense, but definitely not something I knew before now.
What height of fence would you recommend for turkeys, especially if I kept their wing feathers clipped? We have a large chicken run with I think a 7-foot fence. I know there can be issues that arise from letting chickens and turkeys run together, but my brother-in-law keeps a few turkeys in with his chickens, and says he does not have any issues with it. I could also build them their own separate area, too. I would just need somewhere to pen them up, in case they started tearing the garden up too badly. I don't think fencing off the garden is going to be in the books for this year. Also, about how much would you expect to feed them? I realize that if they're free range in the summertime, they will be able to feed themselves quite a bit, but what approximately would you feed over the winter?
At this point, I think I might just buy a few poults when we place our chick order, and give it a shot.
 

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I had the Broad Breasted Bronze before and loved their personalities. Last year, I got some Black Spanish, Blue Slates, Bourbon Reds, & A Royal Palm pair. All the hens are sweet. Of males, I have Blue Slate, Royal Palm, & Boubon Red.
Personality wise, The Bourbons are the most friendly and laid back..similar to the Broad Breasted. The Blue Slates are the most stand offish. The Blue male, while pretty, is kind of a jerk now.
The Palms are very chill too just not super friendly. The female will come up to me but doesnt want to snuggle, like all the Bourbon females do lol.
My Black Spanish hens are also loving to be snuggled and are very sweet. I dont have a Black Spanish male so I dont know how they act.

I got mine as poults and let a Key West hen raise them (long story lol). They were held a lot and given lots of attention and treats so others may have a different experience. From the beginning, the Bourbons were the poults that wood come right up to me and want to cuddle.
Key West hen with some of her adopted mail order turkey poults.
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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
I had the Broad Breasted Bronze before and loved their personalities. Last year, I got some Black Spanish, Blue Slates, Bourbon Reds, & A Royal Palm pair. All the hens are sweet. Of males, I have Blue Slate, Royal Palm, & Boubon Red.
Personality wise, The Bourbons are the most friendly and laid back..similar to the Broad Breasted. The Blue Slates are the most stand offish. The Blue male, while pretty, is kind of a jerk now.
The Palms are very chill too just not super friendly. The female will come up to me but doesnt want to snuggle, like all the Bourbon females do lol.
My Black Spanish hens are also loving to be snuggled and are very sweet. I dont have a Black Spanish male so I dont know how they act.

I got mine as poults and let a Key West hen raise them (long story lol). They were held a lot and given lots of attention and treats so others may have a different experience. From the beginning, the Bourbons were the poults that wood come right up to me and want to cuddle.
Key West hen with some of her adopted mail order turkey poults.
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Thanks for sharing! Your hen looks very proud of her adopted 'chicks'. I've been having some goat drama lately, so ordering poultry has gotten shoved to the back burner, but it's probably time to figure that out. I know the hatcheries can sell out fast!
 

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Thanks for sharing! Your hen looks very proud of her adopted 'chicks'. I've been having some goat drama lately, so ordering poultry has gotten shoved to the back burner, but it's probably time to figure that out. I know the hatcheries can sell out fast!
check your local farm stores. Most will have bb poults and heritage poults as well at some point.
 

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We have royal palms and one blue slate.

The couple that we raised by ourselves, are extremely friendly and funny birds. They are just so quirky. We handled each of them everyday as chicks and would go sit with them out in the grass. Be warned though, if you let them sit on your shoulder, they think they can do it when they are huge monsters too and it's quite alarming when they try to do it and you aren't expecting it.

Our tom is especially friendly, he loves hugs! He's the only tom we've had though, so I don't have much experience with another. When we let them free range, they would come up to the house and peck at the door to get treats.

Our hens have been consistently and persistently broody without fail. Usually I can find their nests and collect the eggs to sell or just reduce how many they will hatch (we don't need 20+ turkeys! lol). But last year one of our hens went "missing" for awhile....came home from work to find her parading her 13 little fuzz-butts around the yard.

We let her raise two of the chicks and I ended up selling the others, as we just don't have the space. They are kind of aggressive/protective of the chicks, not so much with us...they just voice concern/interest at us, but if a chicken get's to close they go all mother bear mode and attack, chasing them down.

The two chicks the hen raised are not at all friendly and usually run/fly away. Since Royal Palms are noticeably smaller than our Blue slate, they are very good fliers (except our tom, either he can't or is just lazy...it's not clear.) They loved to roost on top of our hen house, before we started locking them up.

We used to keep them with our hens, but they turned into big bullies and would hog the roosts, then hens started sleeping in the nest boxes and stopped laying....so the turkeys now have their own coop.

Sometimes we still let them free range, on the days the hens are locked up. But it's kind of a pain because they still want to roost on top of the hen house or on top of their covered run; hard to get them back in.

All in all we really like them, they are funny and pretty birds. I recommend Cackle Hatchery, if you are looking to order poults.
 
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